Opium of the people

"Religion is the opium of the people" is one of the most frequently paraphrased statements of German philosopher and economist Karl Marx. It was translated from the German original, "Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes" and is often rendered as "religion... is the opiate of the masses."

The quotation originates from the introduction of Marx's work A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, which he started in 1843 but which was not published until after his death. The introduction to this work was published separately in 1844, in Marx's own journal Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher, a collaboration with Arnold Ruge.

The full quote from Karl Marx translates as: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people". Often quoted only in part, the interpretation of the metaphor in its context has received much less attention.[1]

Full quotation

The quotation, in context, reads as follows (emphasis added):

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.[2]


Marx was making a structural-functionalist argument about religion, and particularly about organized religion.[3][4] Marx believed that religion had certain practical functions in society that were similar to the function of opium in a sick or injured person: it reduced people's immediate suffering and provided them with pleasant illusions which gave them the strength to carry on. Marx also saw religion as harmful, as it prevents people from seeing the class structure and oppression around them, thus religion can prevent the necessary revolution.


Marx wrote this passage in 1843 as part of the introduction to a book that criticized philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's 1820 book, Elements of the Philosophy of Right. The introduction was published in 1844 in a small journal. The book itself was published posthumously.

As the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher journal had a print run of just 1,000, it had no popular effect during the 19th century. The phrase became better known during the 1930s when Marxism was more popular.[4]

Modern comparisons

Religion has become, in many Western countries, less common and less accepted since Marx wrote this now-famous line. Some writers speculate on what the modern "opium of the people" would be, such as sports fandom, celebrities, the distractions of television, internet, and other entertainment, etc.[4]

Similar statements

The same metaphor was used by many authors during the 19th century.[5]


In 1798, Novalis wrote in "Blüthenstaub" ("Pollen"):[6]

Ihre sogenannte Religion wirkt bloß wie ein Opiat reizend, betäubend, Schmerzen aus Schwäche stillend.

(Their so-called religion works simply as an opiate—stimulating; numbing; quelling pain by means of weakness.)

Heinrich Heine

In 1840, Heinrich Heine also used the same analogy, in his essay on Ludwig Börne:

Welcome be a religion that pours into the bitter chalice of the suffering human species some sweet, soporific drops of spiritual opium, some drops of love, hope and faith.[7]

Charles Kingsley

Charles Kingsley, a canon of the Church of England, wrote this four years after Marx:[8]

We have used the Bible as if it were a mere special constable's hand book, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded, a mere book to keep the poor in order.[9]

Miguel de Unamuno

Miguel de Unamuno, the famed Spanish author of the Generation of '98, focused his nivola San Manuel Bueno, mártir around the theme of religion's opiatic affect on the people of rural Spain. In the book, the protagonist Don Manuel is a priest who does not believe in God, but continues preaching because he sees the positive impact he can make in the lives of his parishioners. Religion in this way also serves to cure his own deep depression, through the happiness he feels from helping the people of Valverde de Lucerna. Unamuno makes direct reference to Marx when Don Manuel explains:

Yes, I know that one of the leaders of what they call the social revolution has said that religion is the opium of the people. Opium… opium, yes! Let’s give them opium, and let them sleep and dream. And with this crazy activity of mine, I have also been using opium.[10]


Vladimir Lenin, speaking of religion in Novaya Zhizn in 1905,[11] alluded to Marx's earlier comments (emphasis added):

Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.

See also


  1. ^ McKinnon, AM. (2005). 'Reading ‘Opium of the People’: Expression, Protest and the Dialectics of Religion'. Critical Sociology, vol 31, no. 1-2, pp. 15-38. [1]
  2. ^ Marx, K. 1976. Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Collected Works, v. 3. New York.
  3. ^ Ellwood, Robert S.; Alles, Gregory D. (2007-01-01). The Encyclopedia of World Religions. Infobase Publishing. pp. 160–161. ISBN 9781438110387.
  4. ^ a b c "What is the opium of the people?". 1843. 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  5. ^ Welton, Michael (2015-09-11). "Opium of the People? The Religious Heritage of Karl Marx and the Frankfurt School". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
  6. ^ O'Brien, William Arctander (1995). Novalis, Signs of Revolution. Duke University Press. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-8223-1519-3.
  7. ^ Heine, Heinrich Ludwig Börne - a Memorial
  8. ^ Reader in Marxist Philosophy by Howard Selsam, Harry Martel(1987)
  9. ^ F. D. Maurice (Leaders Of The Church 1800-1900)- C. F. G. Masterman (1907). pp. 65-6
  10. ^ Miguel de Unamuno, San Manuel Bueno, Martír (1930). p.14
  11. ^ Novaya Zhizn No. 28, December 3, 1905, as quoted in Marxists Internet Archive

Further reading

  • Abrams, M. H. 1971 [1934]. The Milk of Paradise: The Effect of Opium Visions on the Works of De Quincey, Crabbe, Francis, Thompson, and Coleridge. New York: Octagon
  • Berridge, Victoria and Edward Griffiths. 1980. Opium and the People. London: Allen Lane
  • Marx, Karl. 1844. A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, February.
  • McKinnon, Andrew. M. "Reading ‘Opium of the People’: Expression, Protest and the Dialectics of Religion" in Critical Sociology, vol. 31 no. 1/2. [2]
  • O’Toole, Roger. 1984. Religion: Classic Sociological Approaches. Toronto: McGraw Hill
  • Rojo, Sergio Vuscovic. 1988. "La religion, opium du people et protestation contre la misère réele: Les positions de Marx et de Lénine" in Social Compass, vol. 35, no. 2/3, pp. 197–230.
  • Luchte, James. (2009) Marx and the Sacred, The Journal of Church and State, 51 (3): 413-437.

Anti-Tiger is the second release by The Mint Chicks on Flying Nun Records and is their follow-up to the well-received Octagon, Octagon, Octagon. Anti-Tiger was issued in three formats: a 2-track 7"-single, a 6-track 10"-EP and a 6-track CD-EP. One of the EP-tracks, "Opium Of The People", was re-recorded for the Mint Chicks' first full-length, Fuck the Golden Youth, in 2005. It developed the Mint Chicks' sound while keeping the intensity of their previous work.


Antireligion is opposition to religion of any kind. The term has been used to describe opposition to organized religion, religious practices or religious institutions. This term has also been used to describe opposition to specific forms of supernatural worship or practice, whether organized or not. Opposition to religion also goes beyond the misotheistic spectrum. As such, antireligion is distinct from deity-specific positions such as atheism (the denial of belief in deities) and antitheism (an opposition to belief in deities); although "antireligionists" may also be atheists or antitheists.

Criticism of religion

Criticism of religion is criticism of the ideas, validity, or the practice of religion, including its political and social implications.Historical records of criticism of religion goes back to at least 5th century BCE in ancient Greece, with Diagoras "the Atheist" of Melos. In ancient Rome, an early known example is Lucretius' De Rerum Natura from the 1st century BCE.

Every exclusive religion on Earth that promotes exclusive truth claims necessarily denigrates the truth claims of other religions. Critics of religion in general often regard religion as outdated, harmful to the individual, harmful to society, an impediment to the progress of science, a source of immoral acts or customs and a political tool for social control.

Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right

Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie) is a manuscript written by German political philosopher Karl Marx in 1843 in Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher.

Unpublished during his lifetime (except for the introduction in 1844), it is a manuscript in which Marx comments on fellow philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's 1820 book Elements of the Philosophy of Right paragraph by paragraph. One of Marx's major criticisms of Hegel in the document is the fact that many of his dialectical arguments begin in abstraction.

This work contains the formulations of Marx's particular alienation theory, which was informed by Ludwig Feuerbach's work. Narrative of the work develops around analysis of the relations between civil society and political society, including Marx's most famous commentaries on the function of religion in the introduction.

Jewish atheism

Jewish atheism refers to the atheism of people who are ethnically and (at least to some extent) culturally Jewish. Because Jewish identity encompasses ethnic as well as religious components, the term "Jewish atheism" does not inherently entail a contradiction.

Based on Jewish law's emphasis on matrilineal descent, even religiously conservative Orthodox Jewish authorities would accept an atheist born to a Jewish mother as fully Jewish. A 2011 study found that half of all American Jews have doubts about the existence of God, compared to 10–15% of other American religious groups.

Left-wing politics

Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy. It typically involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others (prioritarianism) as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished (by advocating for social justice). The term left-wing can also refer to "the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system".The political terms "Left" and "Right" were coined during the French Revolution (1789–1799), referring to the seating arrangement in the French Estates General: those who sat on the left generally opposed the monarchy and supported the revolution, including the creation of a republic and secularization, while those on the right were supportive of the traditional institutions of the Old Regime. Use of the term "Left" became more prominent after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 when it was applied to the "Independents". The word "wing" was appended to Left and Right in the late 19th century, usually with disparaging intent and "left-wing" was applied to those who were unorthodox in their religious or political views.

The term was later applied to a number of movements, especially republicanism during the French Revolution in the 18th century, followed by socialism, communism, anarchism and social democracy in the 19th and 20th centuries. Since then, the term left-wing has been applied to a broad range of movements including civil rights movements, feminist movements, anti-war movements and environmental movements, as well as a wide range of parties. According to former professor of economics Barry Clark, "[leftists] claim that human development flourishes when individuals engage in cooperative, mutually respectful relations that can thrive only when excessive differences in status, power, and wealth are eliminated".

Marxism and religion

19th century German philosopher Karl Marx, the founder and primary theorist of Marxism, had an antithetical and complex attitude to religion, viewing it primarily as "the soul of soulless conditions", the "opium of the people" that had been useful to the ruling classes since it gave the working classes false hope for millennia. At the same time, Marx saw religion as a form of protest by the working classes against their poor economic conditions and their alienation. In the Marxist–Leninist interpretation of Marxist theory, primarily developed by Georgian revolutionary and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, religion is seen as hindering human development. Due to this, a number of Marxist–Leninist governments in the 20th century, such as the Soviet Union after Vladimir Lenin and the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong, implemented rules introducing state atheism.

Marxist–Leninist atheism

In the philosophy of Marxism, Marxist–Leninist atheism (also Marxist–Leninist scientific atheism) is the irreligious and anti-clerical element of Marxism–Leninism, the official state ideology of the Soviet Union. Based upon a dialectical-materialist understanding of humanity's place in Nature, Marxist–Leninist atheism proposes that religion is the opium of the people, meant to promote a person's passive acceptance of his and her poverty and exploitation as the normal way of human life on Earth in the hope of a spiritual reward after death; thus, Marxism–Leninism advocates atheism, rather than religious belief.To support those ideological premises, Marxist–Leninist atheism explains the origin of religion and explains methods for the scientific criticism of religion. The philosophic roots of materialist atheism are in the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and of Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872), of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and of Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924).Unlike Soviet Marxism, other varieties of Marxist philosophy are not anti-religious, such as the Liberation theology developed by Latin American Marxists.

Mode of transport

Means of transport is a term used to distinguish substantially different means of conveyance. The different modes of transport are air, water, and land transport, which includes rail, road and off-road transport. Other modes also exist, including pipelines, cable transport, and space transport. Human-powered transport and animal-powered transport are sometimes regarded as their own mode, but never fall into the other categories. In general, transportation is used for the movement of people, animals, and other things.

Each mode of transport has a fundamentally different technological solution, and some require a separate environment. Each mode has its own infrastructure, vehicles, and operations.

Opiate for the Masses

Opiate for the Masses was an American rock band from Phoenix, AZ in 1999.

Opium fürs Volk

Opium fürs Volk (Opium for the people) is the seventh studio album by the German punk band Die Toten Hosen. Although it's not considered a concept album, it has a central theme of religion (exemplified by the intro "Vaterunser", "Die zehn Gebote" and "Paradies"). It is regarded as one of the best Die Toten Hosen albums. The title is derived from a common misquotation of Karl Marx, who called religion the Opium of the People - Opium des Volkes.

Outline of religion

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to religion:

Religion – organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that are intended to explain the meaning of life and/or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.

Raymond Aron

Raymond Claude Ferdinand Aron (French: [ʁɛmɔ̃ aʁɔ̃]; 14 March 1905 – 17 October 1983) was a French philosopher, sociologist, political scientist, and journalist.

He is best known for his 1955 book The Opium of the Intellectuals, the title of which inverts Karl Marx's claim that religion was the opium of the people – Aron argues that in post-war France, Marxism was the opium of the intellectuals. In the book, Aron chastised French intellectuals for what he described as their harsh criticism of capitalism and democracy and their simultaneous defense of Marxist oppression, atrocities, and intolerance. Critic Roger Kimball suggests that Opium is "a seminal book of the twentieth century." Aron is also known for his lifelong friendship, sometimes fractious, with philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.As a voice of moderation in politics, Aron had many disciples on both the political left and right, but he remarked that he personally was "more of a left-wing Aronian than a right-wing one."Aron wrote extensively on a wide range of other topics. Citing the breadth and quality of Aron's writings, historian James R. Garland suggests, "Though he may be little known in America, Raymond Aron arguably stood as the preeminent example of French intellectualism for much of the twentieth century."

Religion in the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was established by the Bolsheviks in 1922, in place of the Russian Empire. At the time of the 1917 Revolution, the Russian Orthodox Church was deeply integrated into the autocratic state, enjoying official status. This was a significant factor that contributed to the Bolshevik attitude to religion and the steps they took to control it.

Thus the USSR became the first state to have as one objective of its official ideology the elimination of existing religion, and the prevention of future implanting of religious belief, with the goal of establishing state atheism (gosateizm). Under the doctrine of state atheism in the Soviet Union, there was a "government-sponsored program of conversion to atheism" conducted by Communists. The Communist regime targeted religions based on State interests, and while most organized religions were never outlawed, religious property was confiscated, believers were harassed, and religion was ridiculed while atheism was propagated in schools. In 1925 the government founded the League of Militant Atheists to intensify the persecution. Accordingly, personal expressions of religious faith were not in any way privately banned, but a strong sense of social stigma was imposed on them by the official government structures and secular mass media and it was generally considered unacceptable for members of certain government professions (teachers, state bureaucrats, soldiers) to be openly religious and anti-secular.

The vast majority of people in the Russian empire were, at the time of the revolution, religious believers, whereas the communists aimed to break the power of all religious institutions and eventually replace religious belief with atheism. "Science" was counterposed to "religious superstition" in the media and in academic writing. The main religions of pre-revolutionary Russia persisted throughout the entire Soviet period, but they were only tolerated within certain limits. Generally, this meant that believers were free to worship in private and in their respective religious buildings (churches, mosques, synagogues etc.), but public displays of religion outside of such designations were prohibited. In addition, religious institutions were not allowed to express their views in any type of mass media, and many religious buildings were demolished or used for other purposes.As the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin, put it:

Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.

Marxist–Leninist atheism has consistently advocated the control, suppression, and elimination of religion. Within about a year of the revolution, the state expropriated all church property, including the churches themselves, and in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed. Many more were persecuted.Christians belonged to various churches: Orthodox (which had the largest number of followers), Catholic, Baptist and various other Protestant denominations. The majority of the Muslims in the Soviet Union were Sunni, with the notable exception of Azerbaijan, which was majority Shia. Judaism also had many followers. Other religions, practiced by a small number of believers, included Buddhism and Shamanism.

Scientific temper

The Scientific temper is a way of life (defined in this context as an individual and social process of thinking and acting) which uses the scientific method and which may, consequently, include questioning, observing physical reality, testing, hypothesizing, analysing, and communicating (not necessarily in that order). "Scientific temper" describes an attitude which involves the application of logic. Discussion, argument and analysis are vital parts of scientific temper. Elements of fairness, equality and democracy are built into it. Jawaharlal Nehru was the first to use the phrase in 1946. He later gave a descriptive explanation:

"[What is needed] is the scientific approach, the adventurous and yet critical temper of science, the search for truth and new knowledge, the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence, the reliance on observed fact and not on pre-conceived theory, the hard discipline of the mind—all this is necessary, not merely for the application of science but for life itself and the solution of its many problems." —Jawaharlal Nehru (1946) The Discovery of India, p. 512

Nehru wrote that the scientific temper goes beyond the domains to which science is conventionally understood to be limited to, and deals also with the consideration of ultimate purposes, beauty, goodness and truth. Nehru also contended that the scientific temper is the opposite of the method of religion, which relies on emotion and intuition and is (mis)applied "to everything in life, even to those things which are capable of intellectual inquiry and observation." While religion tends to close the mind and produce "intolerance, credulity and superstition, emotionalism and irrationalism", and "a temper of a dependent, unfree person", a scientific temper "is the temper of a free man". He also indicated that the scientific temper goes beyond objectivity and fosters creativity and progress. He envisioned that the spread of scientific temper would be accompanied by a shrinking of the domain of religion, and "the exciting adventure of fresh and never ceasing discoveries, of new panoramas opening out and new ways of living, adding to [life's] fullness and ever making it richer and more complete." Nehru states (that) "It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people."The genesis and development of the idea of the scientific temper is connected to ideas expressed earlier by Charles Darwin when he said, "[F]reedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follows from the advance of science," and by Karl Marx when he said, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions."

"To develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform" is one of the fundamental duties of the people of the Republic of India, according to the Constitution of India.The Government of India, through the National Council for Science and Technology Communication, dedicated the 28 February National Science Day of 2014 to the theme "Fostering Scientific Temper" to spread Nehru's vision.The National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources launched the scholarly serial Journal of Scientific Temper in 2013.

Sociology of religion

Sociology of religion is the study of the beliefs, practices and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. This objective investigation may include the use of both quantitative methods (surveys, polls, demographic and census analysis) and qualitative approaches such as participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of archival, historical and documentary materials.Modern academic sociology began with the analysis of religion in Émile Durkheim's 1897 study of suicide rates among Catholic and Protestant populations, a foundational work of social research which served to distinguish sociology from other disciplines, such as psychology. The works of Karl Marx and Max Weber emphasized the relationship between religion and the economic or social structure of society. Contemporary debates have centered on issues such as secularization, civil religion, and the cohesiveness of religion in the context of globalization and multiculturalism. The contemporary sociology of religion may also encompass the sociology of irreligion (for instance, in the analysis of secular humanist belief systems).

Sociology of religion is distinguished from the philosophy of religion in that it does not set out to assess the validity of religious beliefs. The process of comparing multiple conflicting dogmas may require what Peter L. Berger has described as inherent "methodological atheism". Whereas the sociology of religion broadly differs from theology in assuming indifference to the supernatural, theorists tend to acknowledge socio-cultural reification of religious practice.

Terry Eagleton

Terence Francis Eagleton (born 1943) is a British literary theorist, critic, and public intellectual. He is currently Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University.

Eagleton has published over forty books, but remains best known for Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), which has sold over 750,000 copies. The work elucidated the emerging literary theory of the period. He has also been a prominent critic of postmodernism, publishing works such as The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996).

Formerly the Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford (1992–2001) and John Edward Taylor Professor of Cultural Theory at the University of Manchester (2001–2008), Eagleton has held visiting appointments at universities around the world including Cornell, Duke, Iowa, Melbourne, Trinity College in Dublin, and Yale.Eagleton delivered Yale University's 2008 Terry Lectures and the University of Edinburgh's 2010 Gifford Lecture entitled The God Debate. He gave the 2010 Richard Price Memorial Lecture at Newington Green Unitarian Church, speaking on "The New Atheism and the War on Terror". In 2009, he published a book which accompanied his lectures on religion, entitled Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate.

Welcome to Our Neighborhood

Welcome to Our Neighborhood is the first video album by American heavy metal band Slipknot. It was released on November 9, 1999 by Roadrunner Records and later reissued in DVD format on November 18, 2003. Characterized as a band's home video, it features a mixture of live performances footage of the songs "Surfacing", "Wait and Bleed", and "Scissors", interviews, and music video of "Spit It Out". Additional concept imagery and interview footage is included on the film, while the DVD version features more bonus material. The video was well received by fans and entered number one on the Billboard Top Music Videos chart, and was certified platinum in February 2000.

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